Texas politicians are among the usual cast of Republican characters who are outraged at new regulations announced Monday by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The new regulations would require states to reduce their carbon pollution by 30 percent by 2030. Texas in particular must cut their use by 39 percent.
U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said President Barack Obama — who is spearheading the effort to enact the new rules — is more interested in “pleasing ‘global warming’ special interest groups” than creating jobs and focusing on energy independence for the country.
“(Obama) continues to ignore the checks and balances put in place by our Constitution, choosing to implement extreme regulations that will harm our economy,” Brady said. “His war on energy is really a war on the American family. While millions of Americans are still looking for good-paying jobs, the President’s administration is pushing out rules that kill job creation.”
Brady refers to EPA estimates that the regulations will cost $7.3 billion to $8.8 billion a year.
“While moms and dads are trying to balance the family budget, the EPA crams new red tape down our throats that will make energy prices sky-rocket,” he said. “And when energy prices go up, the rest of the products that families need to buy will also go up. These burdensome new regulations are just another example of how the President’s policies continue to harm American families and businesses during this historically weak economic recovery.”
However, the EPA forecasts a different story. They say the regulations will lead to economic benefits between $55 billion to $93 billion over the life of the rule, according to reports by The New York Times.
Those against the legislation — including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas — are rallying around the more than 600 coal plants around the country that make up roughly a third of the U.S. carbon pollution.
“The new EPA rules announced by the Obama Administration will cripple the coal industry and deprive Americans from jobs, whether they are employed by coal mines or related power plants, or employed in energy dependent business such as manufacturing or technology businesses,” Cruz said. “These rules will not only drive up electric bills, but also threaten the reliability of the nation's electric grid and make it harder for American manufactures to compete in the world market. Once again, President Obama is more concerned with the desires of billionaire campaign contributors and placating extremist special interests than helping American workers and families escape the failed Obama economy”
The agency said the state has at least three years to develop a plan to reach the reductions. The EPA initiative is part of an effort to reduce the country's carbon emission from the power sector by 30 percent below 2005 levels.
The EPA outlined several options, including making power plants more efficient, reducing reliance on coal and investing in more renewable, low-carbon energy sources.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality says it and other state agencies are reviewing the rules and questioned why EPA, and not Congress, is taking action.
The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club says five plants in Texas contribute 25 percent of the emissions.
Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry said the regulations is “the most direct assault yet on the energy providers that employ thousands of Americans, and fuel both our homes and nation’s economic growth.”
“Americans have seen the disastrous results of federal mandates with Obamacare, and these rules will only further stifle our economy’s sluggish recovery and increase energy costs for American families,” Perry said. “If President Obama is truly interested in an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy, he would do well to look to states like Texas that have seen tremendous success at diversifying energy sources while protecting the environment from harmful pollutants.”
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a candidate for Perry’s spot in the November election, says he will fight the emissions. The plan relies heavily on governors agreeing to develop a strategy. If Texas' governor refuses to help, as was the case with Medicaid expansion, the EPA can create its own state plan. But the specifics of how EPA could force Texas to comply remain murky.
The 645-page plan, expected to be finalized next year, is a centerpiece of Obama's efforts to deal with climate change and seeks to give the United States more leverage to prod other countries to act when negotiations on a new international treaty resume next year.
But it delays the deadline for some states to begin complying until long after President Barack Obama leaves office.
Obama, in a conference call hosted by the American Lung Association, said the plan would both shrink electricity prices and protect the health of vulnerable Americans. He scolded critics who he predicted would contend anew that the limits would crush jobs and damage the economy.
“What we’ve seen every time is that these claims are debunked when you actually give workers and businesses the tools and the incentives they need to innovate,” Obama said.
The proposal sets off a complex regulatory process, steeped in politics, in which the 50 states will each determine how to meet customized targets set by the Environmental Protection Agency, then submit those plans for approval.
“This is not just about disappearing polar bears or melting ice caps,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “This is about protecting our health and our homes. This is about protecting local economies and jobs.”
Some states will be allowed to emit more pollutants and others less, leading to an overall, nationwide reduction of 30 percent.
Many states that rely heavily on coal will be spared from cutting a full 30 percent. West Virginia, for example, must reduce the pollution it puts out per amount of power by 19 percent compared to the rate in 2012. Ohio's target is 28 percent less, while Kentucky and Wyoming will have to find ways to make 18 percent and 19 percent cuts in their electricity generation's efficiency.
On the other extreme, New York has a 44 percent target, EPA figures show. But New York already has joined with other Northeast states to curb carbon dioxide from power plants, reducing the baseline figure from which cuts must be made. States like New York can get credit for actions they've already taken, lest they be punished for taking early action.
Initially, Obama wanted each state to submit its plan by June 2016. But the draft proposal shows states could have until 2017 — and 2018, if they join with other states.
That means even if the rules survive legal and other challenges, the dust won't likely settle on this transformation until well into the next administration, raising the possibility that political dynamics in either Congress or the White House could alter the rule's course.
Although Obama doesn't need a vote in Congress to approve his plans, lawmakers in both the House and Senate have already vowed to try to block them — including Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall, who faces a difficult re-election this year in coal-dependent West Virginia. Scuttling the rules could be easier if Republicans take the Senate in November and then the White House in 2016.
Another potential flash point: The plan relies heavily on governors agreeing to develop plans to meet the federal standard. If Republican governors refuse to go along, as was the case with Obama’s expansion of Medicaid, the EPA can create its own plan for a state. But the specifics of how EPA could force a state to comply with that plan remain murky.
S. William Becker, who heads the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, said it was good that the rule will give states more time to develop strategies and will grant credit for previous steps to cut emissions.
“Still, the regulatory and resource challenges that lie ahead are daunting,” Becker said.
Power plants are the largest U.S. source of greenhouse gases, accounting for about a third of the annual emissions. EPA data show power plants have already reduced carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 13 percent since 2005, meaning they are about halfway to meeting the administration's goal.
The administration argued that any costs to comply are far outweighed by savings in health expenses that the U.S. will realize thanks to reductions in other pollutants such as soot and smog that will accompany a shift away from dirtier fuels.
Environmental groups hailed the proposal, praising both the climate effects and the public health benefits they said would follow. Former Vice President Al Gore, a prominent environmental advocate, called it “the most important step taken to combat the climate crisis in our country's history.”
But energy advocates sounded alarms, warning of economic drag. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the proposal “a dagger in the heart of the American middle class.”
“If these rules are allowed to go into effect, the administration for all intents and purposes is creating America's next energy crisis,” said Mike Duncan of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, which represents the coal industry.
Options for states to meet the targets include making power plants more efficient, reducing the frequency at which coal-fired power plants supply power to the grid, and investing in more renewable, low-carbon sources of energy. States could also enhance programs aimed at reducing demand by making households and businesses more energy-efficient. Each of those categories will have a separate target.
Coal once supplied about half the nation's electricity, but has dropped to 40 percent amid a boom in natural gas and renewable sources such as wind and solar. Although the new emissions cuts will further diminish coal's role, the EPA predicted that it would remain a leading source of electricity in the U.S., providing more than 30 percent of the projected supply.
Obama has already tackled the emissions from the nation's cars and trucks, announcing rules to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by doubling fuel economy. That standard will reduce carbon dioxide by more than 2 billion tons over the lives of vehicles made in model years 2012-25.
— Betsy Blaney, Dina Cappiello, and Josh Lederman of the Associated Press contributed to this report.